Should School Buses Have Seat Belts?

Carl Berkowitz, Ph.D., P.E., AICP, Transportation and Railroad Safety Engineer

Two recent collisions involving school buses in Ohio and Arizona have prompted increased attention on federal and state legislation regarding safety precautions for student transportation services.  In August 2023, Carl Berkowitz, Ph.D., P.E., AICP, (Transportation and Railroad Safety Expert) was interviewed by Investigative Reporter Amy Cutler for Arizona’s Family Investigates news segment about seat belt requirements for school buses.  

In 2018, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) changed its recommendation, urging states to enact legislation requiring that all new large school buses be equipped with lap and shoulder seat belts for all passenger seating positions.  NTSB’s revised recommendation aligns with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 222.  The American Academy of Pediatric Medicine has also been studying the safety performance of seat belts and advocating for seat belts on school buses for decades.  Only nine U.S. states currently require seat belts on school buses through state legislation.

“School buses are designed for students to ride without seat belts.  Each seat area is compartmentalized, with high seatbacks that are cushioned on the front and back.  The energy-absorbing, padded seats are installed close together to provide a protective envelope.  Previous studies on seat belts for school buses found that lap belts could cause injuries to children.  However, better seat belt designs with added shoulder restraints have become more common since the initial studies were completed”  – C. Berkowitz

Categories: Carl Berkowitz, Ph.D., P.E., AICP | Transportation and Railroad Safety Expert | Transportation Safety

Tags: Child Passenger Safety | Industry Standards | NTSB | Occupant Restraint System | School Bus | Seat Belt


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